O'Fallon Progress

Central Elementary will have a new principal this fall

O’Fallon Central Elementary has a a new principal.

Jayson Baker of Mascoutah was hired by the Central 104 School District Board of Education in May, and officially started his post beginning of July.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Baker said of his new job.

Baker has had a presence at the school since before classes ended in May in order “to get to know the students and staff better before the new school year,” he said.

“I’m just really excited to be apart of this,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of good things, a lot of magic happening here, and I’m honored to be here.”

Baker said he likes to approach things in a “positive way.”

“As a classroom teacher and as an administrator, one thing that’s important to me is to make sure that people, teachers, staff, and anyone I’m in contact with knows that failure is not something to be ashamed of,” he said. “It’s apart of the process ... Any idea had to come from failures.

“Overcoming challenges is an attractive thing for me, and it’s something I want to instill in my children, students and staff.”

Anytime a student or staff member calls on Baker for advice, he reminds them to stay positive, be gritty and have a growth mindset in life.

“(Because) you’re actually setting yourself up for success at a later date. It’s just that that door isn’t open for you yet,” he said.

Baker is replacing former principal Jered Weh, who is heading to Carlyle High School, which he said is “bittersweet.”

“It’s been really hard to leave the kids here at Central,” Weh said. “I’ve made some really good, meaningful friendships.”

A resident of Carlyle and former teacher at Carlyle High, Weh said the move “back to his old stomping grounds” will be a “seamless transition” for him and his family.

He will be missed, said Dawn Elser, Central 104 superintendent.

“Jered was a big part of our administration team the past seven years. He had a great rapport with the students and the families of Central. He will be missed, but we wish him the best of luck in his new position as the principal at Carlyle High School,” Elser said.

Weh has been an education for nearly 20 years, with almost eight years in Central 104. Last year, he moved from being the Joseph Arthur Middle School principal to the Central Elementary principal.

Weh said he’s leaving the school in good hands.

“Mr. Baker is very highly qualified and very passionate,” said Weh. “I’m very confident he will do very well here.”

Elser also said Baker is going to be an “excellent fit” for the district community and its families.

“He has an elementary education background, is energetic, has a growth mindset and uses restorative practices. We are excited about all he brings to the district,” Elser said.

“There’s a lot of awesome things happening here, and the district board of education is great with down-to-earth people,” Baker said. “When I’ve gone to the meetings, it wasn’t sterile. There was laughter and positivity. I could really tell they care about the schools. There’s a definite family vibe here, and I’m excited to be apart of it and help support it, too.”

Baker background

Hailing from Belleville and Freeburg where he grew up, Baker now lives in Mascoutah with his wife, Lauren, a pediatric nurse, and their two children, Emmett, 5, and Adelia, 3.

Baker has degrees from Southeast Missouri State University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

“Professional development is one of my passions,” said Baker, who also noted he is the first on both sides of his family to earn their college degree.

He began his early education career in 2007 in Millstadt School District 160, first teaching preschoolers, then kindergarteners, and later first-graders. He was at Millstadt for about six years before heading to Mascoutah School District 19 to teach kindergarten for four years.

He also coached junior high basketball in Millstadt and Mascoutah.

“I loved being a mentor to the kids in a different capacity on the court,” Baker said.

Last year, he took on his first administrative position in the Sparta 140 School District, where he also was the athletic director.

With “lofty goals” in mind, Baker said going from the classroom to being an administrator was “challenging to realize there’s only 24 hours in a day, and that progress takes time.”

“Which was hard for me to wait,” he said. “But it’s all worth it.”

Meet Jayson Baker

Q: Whom do you most admire?

A: I most admire people in the field of education: teachers, paraprofessionals, aides, custodians, cooks, office personnel, administration teams, school boards, and all the professionals who provide services to children with special needs. These people have difficult and sometimes under appreciated jobs. They pour their hearts and souls into what they do, and work so hard to mold the leaders of the future.

Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?

A: I would love to spend time with Robert Kennedy.

Q: What is the last book you read?

A: “Gone,” by James Patterson, and I’m almost done with the Michael Bennett series.

Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?

A: I wanted to be the president of the United States.

Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?

A: I am an optimistic and positive individual. I tend to see life through the lens of the glass being half full.

Q: What type of music do you listen to?

A: I listen to everything — big band, classic rock, ‘90s hip-hop, and R and B, and with a 3- and 5-year-old, Disney songs get the most spins in my minivan these days.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I think it is rewarding beyond measure to be an advocate for young children. I know that I have an opportunity to make an impact on the lives of my students, teachers and staff under my charge. And that is priceless to me.

Q: What would people be most surprised to know about you?

A: I can out eat most human beings at a Chinese buffet.

Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?

A: My family.

Robyn L. Kirsch; 618-239-2690; @BND_RobynKirsch